Death penalty crossroad
Chicago--Illinois continued to hold its place as the
national center of debate on the death penalty as clemency hearings ordered by
Governor George Ryan began on Oct. 15. Members of the state's Prison Review
Board reviewed the cases of the 160 Illinois death row inmates, hearing
testimony from both the prosecution and the defense. The board will make
non-binding recommendations to the governor.
The hearings have intensified debate on the death penalty
in Illinois. It is widely expected that Governor Ryan will commute most--if not
all--of the death sentences in effect before he leaves office at the end of this
year. Ryan imposed a moratorium on executions in January of 2000 after a string
of capital sentences involving forced confessions, prosecutorial misconduct, and
poor legal defense work were overturned.
A panel appointed by the governor to examine the death
penalty turned in a list of recommended reforms to the institution, but did not
advocate abolishing it.
Several death row inmates are actively seeking pardons, not
simply the commutation of their sentences. Aaron Patterson and a number of other
men condemned to die maintain that their confessions were tortured out of them
and want to walk out of prison as free men.
Published by News and Letters Committees